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Josh Nicholson

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At Authorea we're constantly thinking about how to make research writing easier, faster, and more robust from initial idea all the way through publication. Beyond stressing over making Authorea an impeccable experience and tool for researchers, we also like to think outside of the box for new innovative features that may not be on our immediate radar but are things we'd like to focus on at some point in the near future. Authorea X, if you like.Today, we'd like to ask for your feedback on one of the new ideas we're working on. We actively sought your feedback when we redesigned our new editor and would like to continue to involve researchers in the development of Authorea as much as possible. After all, we're building a great experience for you!In our latest brainstorming session, we discussed how we could help researchers improve their writing beyond what we're currently doing.  Specifically, how could we make the writing process one informed by data?  We identified a few key things we thought were important to the researcher based on requests as well as on our own observations and came up with what we're tentatively calling: "the Authorea Fitbit of research writing."  The Authorea Fitbit of researchWhile there are numerous metrics aimed at measuring the output of a researcher and the impact of their work \cite{Abbott_2010}, there is no easy way to track how a researcher is writing.  Some researchers have started manually keeping track of their writing progress on Twitter like the online #acwrimo community or the "thesis-writing tracker" by Achintya Rao of CERN but this is somewhat laborious and really just added work.  We think we can do better than a daily tally.  We can automatically track your writing patterns and share with you in a useful dashboard your typical behavior as well as your progress over a certain period of time. With such a system we would hope to be able to provide answers to the following:What time do I write most frequently at?  What are the most common words that I use?  How frequently do I write?How many words am I writing per day, per week, and per year?These are the things that we think researchers may like to know and thus we started quickly mocking up what this could look like on Authorea.  Our mocks are just initial sketches, heavily inspired by Github, and we hope, with your feedback, that they could become something very useful to researchers.  What would you track about your writing if you could? Tweet at us @authorea or leave a comment on Facebook or this article! 
Comments

Adyam Ghebre

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LaTeX and Word users might ask where they can collaborate on single platform. Once upon a time, the answer to this question was They Can't! That is until Authorea came onto the scene. Ideas to foster collaboration between the two segments of users were often an exercise in frustration. While the Word writers would spend time learning LaTeX, the LaTeX users would have to convert their files into Word's proprietary format - a process with imperfect tooling and many painful points. LaTeX and Word co-authors often run into issues with editing and formatting documents, since it is difficult to complete these tasks while working on different platforms. Authorea solves this multi-platform issue and enables an easier and more interactive collaborative writing process, complete with support for commenting, reviewing and tracking changes. Here are four ways Authorea fosters writing relationships between LaTeX and Word users. Format AgnosticAuthorea's HTML editor is a true rich text WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, making it a natural home for Word authors, who don't encounter a learning curve. Word users do not require any knowledge of LaTeX or any other markup language in order to start writing. They find that the Authorea interface is clean, familiar, and simple to use.  LaTeX content is authored in a separate dedicated code editor, with advanced syntax highlighting and optional keybindings (e.g. EMacs and VIM shortcuts). This makes working across disciplines a breeze.Commenting SystemNo matter what writing system co-authors use for their research, communication is the key to a successful collaboration. Since Authorea is web-native, researchers will always see the most up-to-date version of their document, modified in real time. If a Word user logs in and finds that edits are required in a LaTeX-written section, they can simply use Authorea's powerful built-in comments framework to write a note for their co-author to revise that section. There is no need for them to do any technical writing.
Grammarly

Adyam Ghebre

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Scientific writing is the art of communicating complex discoveries. In the current competitive publication environment, authors who cannot communicate effectively do not get past the editor's desk. A decade ago, some journals reviewed every submission. They worked with researchers who had excellent data, but poor writing skills. Today, journals receive far more manuscripts than they can process. A majority of submissions get only a cursory glance, or rejection without review. Skilled writers know how to manipulate conventions with powerful scientific writing. They present complex ideas efficiently and capture an editor's attention. Luckily, many common manuscript errors can be eliminated with the final edit. Here are three simple revisions you can make to improve your final draft: Identify when subjects and verbs are too far apartAvoid nominalizationsOptimize flow1. Subject & Verb DistanceDistant subject and verbs occur when the author puts too much information in one sentence, perhaps thinking this will avoid redundancy. Always prioritize clarity. To revise this, identify the main subject and verb of the sentence. If they are far apart, rephrase the sentence or break it into multiple sentences. Example: The assumptions that all sites evolve at one of two evolutionary rates, that these rates are uniform across the genome, that sites evolve independently conditional on whether they are in conserved or non-conserved regions, and that the phylogenetic models for conserved and non-conserved regions have the same branch-length proportions, base compositions, and substitution patterns, all represent over-simplifications of the complex process of sequence evolution.In this example, the subject is 'assumptions' and the verb is 'represent'. Let's revise this:Rewrite: Several key assumptions represent oversimplifications of sequence evolution. These include...2. Nominalizations Nominalizations are nouns created from adjectives or verbs. They often cause passive voice or require unnecessary words. These can dramatically slow the read of your paper. As you edit, go through and underline any nominalizations. Take a closer look and see if they should be changed to verbs. Example: We performed an analysis...Rewrite: We analyzed...3. Poor FlowFlow is critical to the introduction and discussion sections, which usually provide background or explanatory information. Information flows from one idea to another. The shift in the subject of each sentence should follow a logical order, known as the 'subject string'. Example: We searched the database to look for base pair repeats. A protein involved in the regulation of human methylation was identified by the search.In this example, flow can be improved when the subject that has already been introduced (a search) comes before a new idea (protein). The sentence can thus be re-written with protein as the object of the sentence:Rewrite: We searched the database of sequences to look for base pair repeats. The search identified a protein involved in the regulation of human methylation. In the final revision of your manuscript, highlight the subject of each sentence. Does the subject string follow a logical flow, pivoting only when you want to shift the topic or key point? Or does it jump around at random? Understanding flow takes practice, but once you have a feel for flow, the clarity of your writing will improve.Final wordToday, excellent research is being lost in the midst of poor scientific writing skills. Using these revision techniques, you can work towards  journal editors recognizing the significance of your findings. There are some great resources to help identify these common errors. For example, while writing on Authorea, we offer a Grammarly plug-in that will correct your grammar and spelling errors. Also check out the Hemmingway Editor, which allows you to copy paste chunks of text and highlight adverbs, nominalizations, passive voice, and more. For examples of flow, check out the Scientific Writing Resource from Duke University.